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Pairing assistance brings sea change to landlocked region

Source: Xinhua Updated: 2022-08-30

* Under China's pairing-up scheme between developed and underdeveloped areas, affluent Fujian was paired with landlocked Ningxia, assisting the latter with economic development.

* The newly-built town of Minning is a flagship project and currently has over 60,000 residents relocated from barren mountains, mainly living on plantation and husbandry or working in factories.

* Besides direct investment, schools and hospitals in Fujian have paired up with their counterparts in Ningxia, sending teachers or experienced doctors and helping train students or medical professionals.


Aerial photo taken on July 15, 2021 shows the panoramic view of the Minning Town in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. [Xinhua/Wang Peng]

YINCHUAN -- Thanks to the assistance from east China's coastal Fujian Province, once poverty-stricken villages deep in the barren mountains of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region have seen a sea change over the past decades.

Xie Xingchang, 66, sells local agricultural products on a livestreaming platform and has been telling fascinating stories about Minning Town during livestreaming sessions.

The story dates back to the autumn of 1996, when China launched a pairing-up scheme between developed and underdeveloped areas. Affluent Fujian was paired with landlocked Ningxia.

In 1997, Fujian and Ningxia agreed to build a new village near Ningxia's capital Yinchuan to relocate villagers in arid mountains to habitable areas near the Yellow River.

Minning, named after the abbreviations of Fujian and Ningxia, was gradually developed into a town, with a population of over 60,000 mainly living on growing wine grapes, mushrooms, and goji berries and raising cattle.

Xie's hometown was a small mountain village in Xihaigu, where extreme drought forced locals to rely on government assistance until the 1980s. When he learned that Fujian would send engineers and experts, he saw hope.

He persuaded some of his fellow villagers to move to the new village, where they built their own homes and reclaimed wasteland. They had a bumper harvest the next year thanks to the government-funded irrigation system that brought Yellow River water, which encouraged more people to settle in the new village.

By the end of 2020, Fujian had invested about 3.37 billion yuan (about 492 million U.S. dollars) in over 4,000 projects in Ningxia, with more than 160 new villages just like Minning built.


Workers package cereal products at an ecological agriculture company funded by Fujian Province, in Haiyuan County of Zhongwei, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Feb. 28, 2022. [Xinhua/Wang Peng]


Villager-turned-workers are an important force in the fight against poverty. Every year, over 50,000 rural residents from Ningxia work in Fujian, with help from government. Still better, investors from Fujian have opened more than 6,700 enterprises in Ningxia.

"If you want to win, you must fight," Liu Kuangkuang from Sanhe Village under Ningxia's Longde County quoted a line from a popular song in Fujian dialect he learned during his years there.

Three years ago, a Fujian businessman opened a soil coating factory in the Minning poverty alleviation industrial park of Longde. Liu works in the factory and no longer needs to travel afar for a well-paid job.

"I earn 6,000 yuan a month," he said.

"It is always a priority to create more jobs and teach local workers necessary skills," said Xie Min, a government official of Ningxia's Guyuan City.

From grape planting and photovoltaic agriculture to cattle breeding, more diversified industries have taken roots in Ningxia with the deepening cooperation between Fujian and Ningxia.

Minning's annual per capita disposable income increased from about 500 yuan when the relocation began to more than 16,000 yuan last year.


A teacher guides students from northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region at SCUD Senior Technical School in Fuzhou, east China's Fujian Province, March 4, 2021. [Xinhua/Jiang Kehong]


Hai Peng, though only 20, has already been teaching in a Ningxia technical school for a year.

Fujian and Ningxia jointly established the technical school in Guyuan in 2018. As a branch of Fujian-based SCUD Technical College, it offers majors such as electronic technology application, electrical automation equipment installation and maintenance, and e-commerce.

The school has enrolled over 800 local students from rural families over the past three years.

Hai spent a year learning theoretical knowledge in the Ningxia school and another two years of skill training and internship in Fujian. While many of his classmates became skilled workers in Fujian, he chose to be a teacher back home.

He mainly teaches basic principles and practices of machine operation, to help students better understand book knowledge in preparation for internship and employment after graduation.

Being an excellent graduate and worker, he is fully competent for the teaching. However, he continues to study in his spare time, hoping to improve his academic background, and obtain more relevant skills and certificates.

So far, 75 schools and 29 hospitals in Fujian have paired up with their counterparts in Ningxia, sending teachers or experienced doctors and helping train students or medical professionals.

Hai grew up in the mountains and had never seen the sea. During his years in Fujian, his favorite leisure activity was watching the sea. He said the surging waves always brought him hope and momentum.

In his spare time, he often shows his students the sea pictures on his phone, encouraging them to study hard and prepare themselves to meet the world beyond the mountains one day and make greater achievements.

Video reporter: Lu Ying; Video editors: Jia Xiaotong and Yin Le